Russian Museum

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Russian Museum


in Leningrad, one of the two largest museums of Russian art in the USSR (the other is the Tret’iakov Gallery in Moscow). The Russian Museum was established in St. Petersburg in 1895 as an art and cultural-historical museum. Its official name until 1917 was the Russian Museum of Emperor Alexander III. The museum was opened in 1898 in the former Mikhailovsky Palace (1819–25, architect K. I. Rossi). The large, U-shaped building is the dominant structure in Arts Square. The main facade is decorated with an eight-column Corinthian portico and a sculptured frieze by V. I. Demut-Malinovskii. The side facing the garden is a colonnaded loggia. The interior consists of suites of rooms, among which only the vestibules and the White-columned Hall have preserved their original ornamentation (architect-sculptors Rossi, Demut-Malinovskii, and S. S. Pimenov; painters J. B. Scotti, P. Scotti, A. Vighi, and B. Medici). The remaining rooms were reconstructed at the end of the 19th century (architect V. F. Svin’in). The west wing was added in 1914–16 (architect L. N. Benois).

The basic collections of the Russian Museum include works from the Hermitage, the Academy of Arts, and a number of palaces. The collection expanded between 1898 and 1917 by means of purchases and donations. An ethnographic division was opened in 1902, and a history and culture division was added in 1913. (These two divisions were separated from the museum in 1934.) After 1917 the museum’s collection was significantly enlarged through the nationalization of valuable art objects owned by the imperial family, the church, and private collectors. It was also increased through large purchases and the redistribution of museum holdings. During the Soviet period the museum has enriched its collection with materials from folk and applied arts—arts that previously were totally unrepresented. In 1932 a division of Soviet art was established. Owing to an active acquisitions policy, the museum’s collection continues to expand. In 1975 its holdings numbered about 316,000 works of art. In 1917 the collection consisted of 7,000 objects.

The museum’s collections include Russian and Soviet painting, sculpture, graphic arts, applied art, and folk art (furniture, porcelain, glass, fabrics, carvings, embroidery, lace, lacquer-ware, metal objects). The museum houses the country’s largest sculpture collection and most varied graphic arts collection (especially drawings). The ancient Russian division has many outstanding icon paintings, including works by Andrei Rublev and S. Ushakov. The collection of 18th-century and early-19th-century art is especially rich. It features works by I. M. Nikitin, A. M. Matveev, B. K. Rastrelli, F. S. Rokotov, A. P. Losenko, D. G. Levitskii, V. L. Borovikovskii, I. P. Martos, O. A. Kiprenskii, S. F. Shchedrin, A. G. Venetsianov, K. P. Briullov, F. A. Bruni, A. A. Ivanov, and P. A. Fedotov. Works of the late 19th century include paintings by the peredvizhniki (including I. N. Kramskoi and I. I. Shishkin) and major paintings by I. E. Repin and V. I. Surikov. Late-19th- and early-20th-century artists represented include I. I. Levitan, V. A. Serov, M. A. Vrubel’, P. P. Trubetskoi, N. K. Rerikh, K. A. Korovin, M. V. Nesterov, and B. M. Kustodiev. There are also works by artists of the World of Art (including A. N. Benois and K. A. Somov), Blue Rose, and Jack of Diamonds. The museum’s collection of Soviet art has the USSR’s largest number of works by A. A. Rylov, K. S. Petrov-Vodkin, A. T. Matveev, A. S. Golubkina, V. I. Mukhina, S. T. Konenkov, P. P. Konchalovskii, S. V. Gerasimov, A. A. Deineka, A. A. Plastov, I. A. Serebrianyi, and V. A. Serov.

One of the leading institutions of art scholarship in the USSR, the Russian Museum brings its collection to the people by means of tours, lectures, permanent and traveling exhibitions, and study circles. The museum also conducts research pertaining to the history of Russian art.


Russkii muzei: Putevoditel’. Leningrad, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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